Business owners have one (specific) problem with Murphy

Slogans are nice, but if you’re going to say, ‘Data determines dates,’ you need to say what data point you’re looking for

By Tom Bergeron
Trenton | Jun 11, 2020 at 3:16 pm
Editor’s Desk

The question was straightforward:

“Regarding data determining your actions, what are the data points you want to see before telling restaurants they can fully reopen?”

The answer was anything but.

“We haven’t mentioned this in a while, but we had a chart that (Health Commissioner) Judy (Persichilli) and I referred to, we may have had it in our daily slide deck … it’s more of the same data at this point,” Gov. Phi Murphy said. “The slide I’m referring to looked at a theoretical window that, at any point in time, if you make a decision versus making it two weeks later, the impact on the rate of transmission is dramatic.

“So, I’m not going to give you a specific data point, but time on the clock — not forever, this is not a life sentence here, we’re talking now about a number of weeks more improvement in the data has an outsized impact on driving the virus to the ground.”

Huh?

Business owners can look past the idea of whether you agree that it’s OK to violate the executive order on social distancing when protesting, due to the historic nature of the protest.

They can look past the idea that places of religious services are being allowed to open even though they go against Murphy’s (accurately) stated premise: “The facts are the facts: Inside, sedentary, no ventilation, close proximity is hard,” he said.

And they can look past whether to agree or disagree that the state is opening too slowly or too quickly.

But, they can’t look past this: If data truly determines dates — then, what is the data?

Murphy’s struggle with the business community is this: Specifics, not slogans, help determine a business plan.

Simply saying things are always better two weeks past any specific date is not an answer — and is not the type of data businesses need to determine their own reopening plan.

The frustration — which leads to opposition — is growing.

Asbury Park passed an ordinance Wednesday night that it will allow indoor dining on June 15 — the day the governor has said only outdoor dining can resume. The guess is the governor will be able to push back hard enough that the municipal leaders will back down — just as one reliable insider said the administration did a few weeks back, when another organized insurrection supposedly was being planned by a county.

The guess also is that Asbury Park won’t be the last municipality to make a stand.

There’s only one way to stop it: Explain what data the state is looking for.

It could be the RT, the rate of transmission, going under a certain number. Or the number of hospitalizations, or folks in intensive care. Or the number of new cases. And it can be all of these data points — based on multiday success rates, too.

It just has to be something.

Business owners — like the rest of the state’s residents — have been patient. They have bought into the idea of breaking the back of the virus. They wear masks and protest peacefully. They just want more specifics. Especially restaurant and bar owners, who all know that limited outdoor dining won’t get them even close to making a profit.

Murphy has yet to offer them specifics.

“Restaurants have our enormous sympathies,” he said. “Restaurants, bars, hospitality have been crushed. We are working (hard), I promise you, morning, noon and night, to get to a responsible point to reopen.”

On that, we can all agree — but only if he says what data point is a “responsible point.”

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